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  • Balochistan Liberation Army has been designated a “terrorist” organization by the U.S.

    Balochistan Liberation Army has been designated a “terrorist” organization by the U.S. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 July 2019

Like most progressive, anti-occupation, anti-imperialist groups, the U.S. declared Balochistan Liberation Army from Pakistan, a “terrorist” organization.

The United States declared Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) a “terrorist” organization Tuesday which is fighting against the Pakistani state for the independence of the Baloch people.

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“The BLA is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan,” the State Department said. 

“The outfit has carried out several terrorist attacks in the past year, including a suicide attack in August, 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Balochistan, a November 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and a May 2019 attack against a luxury hotel in Gwadar,” it added.

Pakistan said it welcomed the decision hoping that “this designation will ensure that BLA’s space to operate is minimised.”

They even said this announcement is a setback for India as the BLA is seen as an agent of Indian intelligence organization RAW similarly as independence fighters in the Indian Occupied Kashmir is considered agents of Pakistani intelligence organization ISI. 

The BLA is a group fighting for greater autonomy in Pakistan's poorest province whose resources it says are exploited for outside interests. The westernmost province of Pakistan is bordered by Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the northwest, and the Arabian sea to the south.

The entire Balochistan, named after Baloch people, is mainly split between Pakistan's province and Iran’s Sisten-Balochistan province.

Before the partition of India and Pakistan, Balochistan consisted of four princely states, namely, Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan, and Makran. Kalat was the main governing state.

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Three months before Pakistan was founded in 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and its first Governer-General, negotiated the Balochistan independence from the British. After a series of discussions, it was decided in August 1947 that Kalat would be an independent sovereign state.

Jinnah, however, was not ready to recognize Kalat as independent and wanted its leader to sign the instrument of accession. The Khan (leader) of Kalat did not accept Jinnah’s suggestion but he was ready to concede on matters of defense, foreign affairs, and communications.

After a series of back and forth between Jinnah and the Khan, in 1948 the Pakistani army was ordered to march into Balochistan. It was under gunpoint that Kalat was merged into Pakistan by the Khan of Kalat.

Later Balochistan became one of the five provinces of Pakistan with Quetta as its capital city.

Baloch people feel they have been illegally occupied by Pakistan which resulted in an independence movement.

Since then Balochis have been subjected to torture, forced disappearance, arbitrary arrests and detentions, extrajudicial executions, mass graves, the killing of journalists, according to local and international human rights organizations. 

Pakistan declared BLA a terrorist organization in 2006 and the U.S. declaration is seen as a “positive development” and a diplomatic victory of Pakistan.

However, this is not the first time the U.S. is designating an organization fighting for freedom a “terrorist organization” and putting them in the same bracket with organizations such as Islamic State Group, al-Qaida, and other extremist Islamist groups. 

The U.S. State Department has a list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations which lists various progressive organizations as “terrorist” groups. 

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For example, all the Palestinian organizations fighting for their freedom from Israel are named in the list, such as Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). 

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Tamil organization fighting for the rights of Tamilians in Sri Lanka who underwent brutal suppression from majority Sinhalese community is also listed as a “terrorist” organization. 

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which, after the peace treaty with the Colombian government in 2016, laid down arms but highly persecuted by the right-wing government of Ivan Duque, is still considered a “terrorist” organization. Similarly, another Colombian organization National Liberation Army (ELN) finds itself in the list. 

It also designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “terrorist” organization. 

The anti-U.S. Hezbollah from Lebanon is also not spared which raises a pertinent question about how the U.S. measures an organization and what relegates them to the “terrorist” list. 

“The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States,” explains the State Department website. 

But most of the organization named in the list, are not only actively engaging with the U.S. but also only active in a particular region or country. 

It seems that organizations which are actively rejecting oppression, occupation, and working for progressive politics are rendered as terrorist organizations and put in the same group as Islamic State group or Jaish-e-Mohammed even though they are not a threat to the North American country.

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